The Sydney Swans face a massive test when they take on defending premiers Collingwood tonight at ANZ Stadium in Sydney. Join us from 7pm for live score updates and a blog.
After contesting two consecutive grand finals in 2005-06 many thought that when the Swans eventually came back to the pack they would be in for a long rebuild.
But some masterful trading from Paul Roos quickly regenerated their list and for the last two seasons the football world has been waiting for the Swans to burst back into the AFL’s top four.
Sydney’s ranking of sixth on the ladder is fair. They tend to beat the teams ranked below them and have struggled competing with those above.
In fact, Sydney has played the season-ending top-four teams 18 times since the beginning of the 2009 season. They have prevailed only once.
Tonight against the 10-1 Magpies, the Swans face their biggest credibility test of the season.
The stakes have been raised for the Bloods because they were outclassed by third-placed Carlton last week, a team being toasted premiership contenders.
If John Longmire’s men are to be taken seriously in September they need a big scalp. Tonight they are presented with an opportunity.
Collingwood come off the bye and teams in that situation have a horrible record. When taking on a team that played the previous week, the rested team has a 2-11 winning record this year.
Collingwood’s only defeat in 2011 came at the hands of Geelong. It was the week after the Pies had their first bye of the season.
But the Magpies proved in their latest outing, on the Queen’s Birthday Monday, that they are a quality unit.
The Pies, missing numerous premiership players, steamrolled the inconsistent Dees by a margin of 2 points less than 15 goals.
A killing usually beset for the wild of Africa unfolded at the MCG. And to frank that form Melbourne came away with a 15-goal win themselves at the same ground last week against Fremantle.
The form around Collingwood stands up. Coming into this round it is no surprise to see the Maggies are both the highest scoring and least conceding team in the competition. Rightly so, they are premiership favourites.
Collingwood are expected to take this game out and part of the reason for that is the stranglehold they have had over this fixture since its inception nine seasons ago.
Every year since 2003 Collingwood has played Sydney at ANZ Stadium. All of those matches have been on Saturday nights and the Pies are 6-2.
Collingwood have won the last five in Sydney and the last nine against the Swans overall. They have the wood on their opponents.
Having had the luxury of sending a number of their premiership stars to Arizona over the break, Collingwood can expect Dane Swan to be back to his best when he returns to the starting 21 tonight.
Joining Swan as an inclusion is All-Australian-bound Dale Thomas. These are two massive ins for the Pies.
Crucially, Sydney loses ruckman Shane Mumford to suspension, only a week after he returned from a knee injury.
Alex Johnson and Lewis Jetta will also miss but Longmire does call on Paul Bevan (who kicked three goals against Carlton in a final at this ground last year), Andrejs Everitt and Jesse White.
I expect the Magpie cream to rise to the top. The Pies will win this one by 19 points. It’s hard to know exactly but I think the Swans have enough to play for, also noting that Collingwood are off the bye, to make this competitive.
B: Nicholas Smith, Ted Richards, Martin Mattner
HB: Tadhg Kennelly, Heath Grundy, Nick Malceski
C: Rhyce Shaw, Jude Bolton, Jarrad McVeigh
HF: Ben McGlynn, Sam Reid, Lewis Roberts-Thomson
F: Kieren Jack, Adam Goodes, Ryan O’Keefe
Foll: Mark Seaby, Craig Bird, Daniel Hannebery
I/C: Paul Bevan, Jesse White, Josh P. Kennedy, Andrejs Everitt
Emg: Brett Meredith, Lewis Johnston, Lewis Jetta
In: Paul Bevan, Jesse White, Andrejs Everitt
Out: Shane Mumford (Suspension), Lewis Jetta, Alex Johnson (Calf)
Milestones: Josh P. Kennedy – 50 games
B: Leon Davis, Ben Reid, Harry O’Brien
HB: Alan Toovey, Nick Maxwell, Heath Shaw
C: Dane Swan, Dale Thomas, Sharrod Wellingham
HF: Chris Tarrant, Chris Dawes, Andrew Krakouer
F: Alan Didak, Travis Cloke, Leigh Brown
Foll: Cameron Wood, Scott Pendlebury, Luke Ball
I/C: Tyson Goldsack, John McCarthy, Steele Sidebottom, Jarryd Blair
Emg: Luke Rounds, Lachlan Keeffe, Alex Fasolo
In: Dane Swan, Dale Thomas
Out: Simon Buckley (Groin), Alex Fasolo
LAST TIME: Collingwood 13.18 (96) d Sydney 10.11 (71), Rnd 13, 2010, ANZ Stadium
PAST FIVE: Sydney 0 Collingwood 5
AT THIS VENUE: Sydney 2 Collingwood 6
RECORD OVERALL: Sydney 79 Collingwood 136 draw 1
SINCE 2000: Sydney 5 Collingwood 12
BETTING: Sydney $5.50 Collingwood $1.14